Presidential turkeys live the good life. Each year, the President of the United States pardons one turkey from becoming dinner on Thanksgiving Day. However, this pardon is a much more recent development than one might think!
The origin of this tradition is uncertain, but it is thought to have begun with clemency given to a turkey by Abraham Lincoln in 1863.
By the 1870s, a turkey farmer, Henry Vose of Rhode Island became the first to send yearly turkeys to the White House, followed in later years by similar gifts from farmers around the country and even children.
A presidential pardon didn’t become a yearly event, though, for a long time. It actually wasn’t until 1981 when Ronald Reagan sent a turkey off to a turkey farm that the “pardon” was turned into national news.
George H.W. Bush, in 1989, stated “But let me assure you, and this fine tom turkey, that he will not end up on anyone’s dinner table, not this guy — he’s granted a Presidential pardon as of right now — and allow him to live out his days on a children’s farm not far from here.”
Thanksgiving turkey info and more about the history of the White House can be found at The White House Historical Association.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day making lots of new family history memories.